By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — Former Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott repeatedly and adamantly denied firing her ex-chief of staff in 2007 because the man intended to run against her husband for commission chairman.
Scott was on the stand Wednesday afternoon in Clayton County Superior Court under cross-examination by Bill Atkins. Atkins represents Earl Randall, Scott’s former chief of staff. Randall alleges Scott fired her under pressure from her husband, Lee Scott, when Randall announced he would run in the race Lee Scott also sought.
Randall sued the couple in 2009 but legal wrangling got Jewel Scott removed as a defendant. Randall alleges Lee Scott pressured his wife to fire him in December 2007 to keep him out of the race for county commission chairman. Neither man won and Eldrin Bell returned for a second term.
Jewel Scott testified Wednesday that Randall was inept in his duties.
“He couldn’t fulfill those roles,” she said. “I had to slowly take away duties. He was trying.”
She went on to describe Randall as a “bad investment and not very good chief of staff.” Atkins took issue with that assessment.
“He was so bad that over the course of two and a half years, you got him two raises and made him your finance director?” said Atkins.
Scott reduced Randall’s role even further.
“He was a good driver,” she said. “He was putting in time with me. He was personable and able to meet with people who came into the office.”
Scott also de-emphasized her husband’s role in her office. When she took office in 2005, Scott publicly denied that her husband, who is a businessman, had an active role in how she ran her office. Wednesday, she acknowledged he was part of her transition team that helped make decisions when she took over the office run for 28 years by her predecessor, Bob Keller.
Scott denied a conversation that her husband allegedly had with Randall over his intent to run for chairman during a lunch at Ryan’s Steakhouse.
“Did your husband raise his voice and yell at Earl Randall?” Atkins asked her. “Didn’t your husband tell Earl Randall, ‘Yeah, it’s a problem, you’re naive. If you don’t get out of the race, you’re my enemy and I destroy my enemies’?”
Scott denied hearing those statements.
“If that transpired, I would have heard that,” she said. “If he’d raised his voice, I would have heard it. I didn’t hear that.”
Scott testified that Randall came highly recommended as an investigator but once he was hired, she struggled with his deficiencies. Scott said she shifted him from investigator to chief of staff, where he supervised the child support unit, victims advocate and clerical personnel.
Atkins wanted to know where the documented proof of his inadequacies was.
“There was nothing written,” said Scott. “I truly didn’t evaluate what I considered the upper echelon of the staff, they were like management. Others were evaluated but he wasn’t because he was part of management. That doesn’t mean I didn’t talk to him about what I expected.”
Randall entered the downhill slope of his employment in September 2007, when he announced he had registered to accept campaign funds as a candidate for Clayton County Board of Commission chairman. Scott said she was supportive.
“I would have never told him not to run, that was his right,” she said.
She also denied having Sheriff Victor Hill ask Randall to step out of the race at a 2007 Christmas party at the sheriff’s office.
“I have no information on Victor Hill’s interest in my office,” she said. “I didn’t have a conversation with Sheriff Hill.”
Scott said once Randall made his political intentions known, he was hard to find around the office.
“He wasn’t at work, he was hardly there and I’d be looking for him for meetings and he wasn’t there,” she said. “I’d call and he wasn’t there. I started ticking off the dates I couldn’t find him. He took off more than 30 days in 2007, not including holidays. It became so significant I started ticking off the days I couldn’t find him.”
Scott said Randall crossed the line when he brought in invitations to a political fundraiser to her office.
“He had a list of home addresses, there was no need for them to be brought into the office,” she said. “That crossed the line. It was an accumulation of events — his not being there, doing other things on work time, the invitations coming into the employees mailboxes. I told him to not bring them into the office.”
Randall was terminated Dec. 21, 2007.
Testimony is expected to continue through the week.